It has now been over four months since British Columbia residents haven’t been able to gather with anyone outside of their own households and, according to health officials, that isn’t about to change.
During a press conference on Thursday, Dr. Bonnie Henry took a moment to address the current health restrictions, which limit gatherings, events, and certain sporting and recreational activities.
“Over the last month we have been closely monitoring our new cases, and our rates of transmission,” Dr. Henry said at the Thursday afternoon briefing. “So that we can better understand when we can safely open up, or whether we need to take additional measures.”
At the beginning of February, these restrictions were extended indefinitely until health officials saw a diminished impact from the virus.
Today, Feb. 25, it appears the provincial health officer isn’t ready for a change just quite yet.
“When we have confidence that [COVID-19 cases] are slowing in a sustained way, that is when we will be able to ease restrictions, but we are not quite there yet,” she said on Thursday.
“We are looking ahead into March to make sure we know when we can increase our social interactions in a limited way. When we can have safe, in-person religious services again or safely increase things like youth sports.”
In recent days, COVID-19 numbers in B.C. have started to creep back up, according to the seven-day average of daily case numbers.
In the Island Health region, COVID-19 cases have particularly surged as health officials have reported 210 new cases over the last week alone. As of Wednesday, Island Health had reported 245 active cases within its authority, with the largest portion of them (150) being located on the Central Island.
“Over the weekend, Friday, Saturday, Sunday saw over 100 cases,” Island Health‘s chief medical health officer, Dr. Richard Stanwick, said. “We’ve been averaging upwards of around 40 cases, and I can confirm today that that number has remained consistent.”
Island Health says it is currently unable to trace where approximately 20 per cent of the cases have come from.
“Right now, one in five individuals cannot identify where they acquired the virus,” Dr. Stanwick said. “This is significantly higher than the days when we were able to identify most people and that we were more concerned about travel than community spread.”
Dr. Henry outlined that officials are going to continue to actively monitor the case numbers over the next few weeks and make decisions on restrictions accordingly.
“We are all keen to get to that point where we can safely spend time with more of our family and friends, when we can travel at least within B.C. and resume some of those things that we have all put on told,” Dr. Henry acknowledged on Thursday, but noted that at this time there is still potential for rapid growth.
“We are still seeing increasing numbers,” Dr. Henry said. “But not rapidly increasing, so that’s important. So we need to have a little bit more stability in that measure.”
According to Dr. Henry, health officials will be looking at several key factors over the next few weeks including the reproductive numbers of the virus, community risk, the seven-day rolling average, and the health system’s ability to manage contact tracing.